A strong earthquake Monday was felt over a 280-kilometre swath of Alaska, including the state's largest city, but there were no immediate reports of damage beyond items knocked off shelves.   

The Alaska and West Coast Tsunami Warning Center said the magnitude-5.8 earthquake occurred at about 4:45 p.m. The Alaska Earthquake Information Center said the centre was 43 kilometres west of Anchorage.   

Guy Urban, a geophysicist at the tsunami warning centre, said the quake wasn't expected to generate a tsunami.   

He said the centre had reports of residents feeling the quake throughout the Anchorage metro area and beyond. It was also felt as far south as the fishing community of Homer, 200 kilometres southwest of Anchorage, and in Willow, 80 kilometres north of the city.   

"No reports of damage thus far," said Anchorage police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker, who felt the quake at his home in Wasilla, about 70 kilometres north of Anchorage. "Just a little shaker-upper," he said.   

Beyond the very minor damage of items being knocked off shelves, there were no reports of building collapses or major structural damage, Parker said.   

"It hit like a bam, really hard," said John Owens, who felt the quake at his home in East Anchorage.   

That was followed by low shaking, which he estimated to last about 30 seconds. "And then it ended with a second bam," he said.   

Karen Whitworth, an artist with an online gallery, was in her Wasilla studio when the rumbling began. She felt lightheaded as if her inner ears lost their sense of balance. Her paintings were swaying on the wall and the window blinds were going back and forth, but nothing was damaged.   

It seemed to last more than a minute, but Whitworth wasn't scared enough to get out of her chair. Her husband shepherded their young son and daughter under a door.   

Alaska is seismically active and has frequent earthquakes, although most are too small or too remote to be felt.   

Alaska is the site of the biggest earthquake recorded in North America — a magnitude-9.2 quake on Good Friday 1964 that struck 120 kilometres east of Anchorage on Prince William Sound. The quake and the ensuing tsunami killed 115 people in Alaska and 16 people in California.